Friday, July 1, 2016

Need a F***, give a F***

I do like to complain on here, but I like to think that the complaining has a point.

 I give a shit about my job. It's important to me that I do my job well and that everyone gets what they want, whether that's fuel, a paycheck, or just getting away with limbs and digits intact.

 I like to speak flippantly, am quick to anger at times, shoot my mouth off without thinking, and do so often, which sometimes gives a different impression than one might get, if, say, we were sitting down across the table discussing something that required my full attention.

         This morning we had a small cargo parcel- two products destined for two ships- one ship was taking black oil and diesel, the other just diesel.

Dragging a hose, operating a crane, those things are easy and just bear mindful watching-over. Tankerman math is likewise easy- addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It's simply a matter of knowing the order of operations.

          This morning our cargo surveyor got LOST in the paperwork on something that was very easy. I tolerated it well- when I saw the guy struggling on a VERY simple process, I walked back my description of what I was doing, and went over it stepwise. I was more than nonplussed that the guy was confused. This is a guy I've dealt with periodically for the past 5 years. He's supposed to be able to survey chemical ships and shore installations- places with 40+ tanks with many different products, and he is a legal representative- he documents exactly how much and where someone's oil is sitting at a given time, and his documentation is THE most critical part of enabling a change of custody of someone's oil.

   OK, I thought we weren't on the same page. No problem. Maybe I hurried through the explanation? No, that wasn't it. Brain fart?

       Panic is an issue that causes delays in doing tankerman math. There are multiple variables, multiple volumes, and you have to deal with standardizing volumes by accounting for how temperature and density affects volume. Simple math, but it must be handled step-wise, and often you are juggling multiple numbers in your head, and once you get confused, the whole thing becomes a dumpster fire of a mess.

 So that was happening, and man, I sympathize.

 But this is something simple. Rather than go into painful detail (tankerman math is an arcane, delicate and forbidden subject, and not to be spoken of, lest people figure out that you do most of it by counting on your fingers), I'll just mention that there was one curveball- one product we were loading would be comingled- that is, we would have oil destined for two different ships in the same tank.
     Comingling is an easy thing to deal with, especially now that we have software that helps us track such things- really, it's very simple to calculate, once you've done it, if you keep your documentation easy to read.

      I got frustrated because the surveyor was sloppy- not to say that he was messy, but he wasn't paying attention to details and was not very concerned with doing things the right way, and this came out in several ways. And, since the guy was already struggling to track the numbers, I couldn't complain, raise my voice or whatever, otherwise he'd panic again, lose track, and we'd be back to square one.

        The issue was documentation and procedures- things are done in a standardized way for reasons- reducing errors and the possibility of errors, comfort, familiarity, even legal reasons.

    I'm a bear when it comes to my paperwork because transferring oil is a chain-of-custody procedure, and paperwork snafus tend to blow shit out of proportion- Where my principal concern is that the oil comes and goes to the right place and in the right tanks, and not in the air or water, the documentation of this varies- every charterer has company-specific procedures and papers, and of the 6 charterers I mostly deal with, every one gets real soggy and hard to light if the numbers don't add up. So the math is the key, and is an important thing to keep standardized.

     The surveyor was having a hard time visualizing what I was doing, but we got over it- his math was all wrong from the earlier panic, but we fixed that together. You know, doing our jobs.

 Because I found the man's work sloppy, I took a look at some of the ancillary paperwork. I discovered that his sampler, a guy who was filling up glass bottles from our tanks for analysis later, absolutely messed up the chain-of-custody documents, and both men tried their best to get me to ignore the mistake, which I did not, would not, could not. What resulted was a second clusterfuck, and that was what made me go from frustrated to angry.
     This guy knows from experience how important his documentation is. This wasn't a matter of too much math or a complex procedure, this error came from not giving enough of a fuck about doing one's job. It was the sampler's fault, he didn't read his orders correctly, and that's OK, mistakes happen. What made me pissed was the attempt to resolve the issue wasn't an attempt to fix the problem, but to hide the mistake. That's what I mean by calling the guy Sloppy.
   Anyhow, I dug in, hard, after that, and got a real fix made up from my end. I got my people covered, but the guy wasn't concerned enough about the quality of his and his helper's work to truly fix the problem from top down- I got my barge and my customer's ass covered, but the guy made no attempt to fix his own issues, even when I offered to give him the material and time he needed to do his own due diligence! 
  Well, I can't point a gun at someone's head and demand they care about doing a good job. All I can do is take care of me and my people, I suppose. I'm reminded strongly about a dressing-down I once witnessed, where the chief mate on my ship got very loud and very pissed off because of errors made, not because of the errors, but because of the fact that they came from careless work done by people who didn't give a fuck about whether or not they did a good job. As the mate's yelling tailed off, and he went from furious to upset, he said something I took to heart. "I just want people who care about doing their job right."
           That was the year we put together the permanent crew that gave a shit on that ship, and that was the ship we did a damn good job on as a result, from then on out.


JayNola said...

From your mouth to God's ear's. I've had uncounted issues because of someone wanting me to halfway do my job or cleaning up after someone halfway doing their job. It gets me way spun up.

Anonymous said...

Hey, would you mind if I linked your blog to mine? I'm SIU and writing about my experiences at Piney Point, etc.

Thanks and look forward to your reply :)

Your email address was somewhere and now I can't find it to send you an email.


STxAR said...

"What made me pissed was the attempt to resolve the issue wasn't an attempt to fix the problem, but to hide the mistake."

This is the epitome of the American way now. We show up for work, spend the hours and expect pay. Whether we do a good job or poor. There is a distinct lack of craftsmanship now. Jay nailed one of my other gripes: bailing out the un-diligent.

That's why I like your blog. Your devotion to doing a good job is encouraging to me. Thanks man, I need the encouragement!

Paul, Dammit! said...

Saltytar- of course! No problem at all.

STxAR- I think everyone who cares about their work is always their own worst critic. Every job, almost every little thing, really, afterwards I find things that I could have done better. I get the fuckits some days, just like anyone, but try to work through it rather than indulge, mostly not out of some mighty ethic, but because I hate having to be ashamed of myself.

Anonymous said...

I'm in calibration. We sign off on whether tools, gauges, indicators, etc., are within specs or not. Correct measurement is where things start: you, for instance, can't transfer fuel if you don't know how much is where. I tell younger employees that we don't sell calibration services, we sell integrity. It's the foundation of our business--everything is documented & traceable. We must be models of probity.
The above is why it really pisses me off when folks don't care about the job. In my mind, that's a sign of a worthless bastard anyhow, but seeing it in my field really burns my ass.
It probably means I'm a damned old curmudgeon, too, but I already know that.
--Tennessee Budd

Anonymous said...

Care and attitude very important it it ain't there it makes it very difficult to work at any job.

When I work with people who seem stun at what they do but should be intelligent to have the job, i wonder if the surveyor was being stun like a fox for some reason.

Will said...

If the guy normally does a good job, consider that he might have had some kind of brain event. Mild stroke, heat prostration, concussion, drug side effect, etc... Covering up may have been a panic response to not knowing why he's suddenly having problems with a normal job function.